Where to stay in Cheltenham? There’s only one answer in “the most complete Regency town in England” – Montpellier. It is arguably Cheltenham’s most idiosyncratic – and expensive – neighbourhood. Developed in the early 19th century when the town’s spa culture was really starting to simmer, today it’s an elegant assembly of Regency architecture and well-tended squares. This summer, a rather tired old hotel on a Georgian terrace overlooking Montpellier Gardens was revitalised as a grand holiday let.
Montpellier House is the joint project of Andrew Chard, a former London estate agent, and Cheltenham-based antiques collector Andrew Seccombe, who has filled the house with a trove of period and modern collectibles from his nearby shop, Blighty Antiques. You can’t fail to be impressed by the makeover – and if you’re really swept away, you can purchase anything from the house and have it delivered home, making this not just a luxurious rental but a living museum .
Arranged over four floors, the house has largely kept to its original specifications, with the kitchen in the basement, though now stylishly fitted out in creamy Cotswold stone and high-spec appliances that include two vast dishwashers. There’s an adjoining galley kitchen on one side and baronial dining room on the other, each of which opens on to a patio. The dining room contrasts with the bright kitchen, papered in crimson Vivienne Westwood tartan wallpaper with a centrepiece antler chandelier and a Pop Art portrait of the Queen on the wall. There’s also a well-worn leather armchair in one corner and a robust circular Victorian table that easily seats 10.
The showpiece is the William IV drawing room, painted in midnight blue and furnished with all manner of antiques, from taxidermied weasels to leather chesterfields, chandeliers and silk curtains.
Upstairs, the Beau Nash master suite is equally impressive, with its soaring ceiling and custom-made four poster, complete with steps up to the deep mattress and marshmallow pillows, all perfectly assembled for a swooning maiden. Contemporary Vivienne Westwood Squiggle wallpaper in sky blue and gold and Edison lightbulbs encased in bell jars are cleverly juxtaposed with period furnishings. The other four bedrooms are smaller and more restrained, though each has an en suite bathroom, all with Molton Brown goodies.
Out and About
Look out of the street-facing windows between 4-13 October and you’ll see Montpellier Gardens thronged with visitors to the annual Literature Festival (cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature). This year’s speakers include Mary Berry, Derek Jacobi and Jennifer Saunders, supplemented by workshops, food and drinks stalls and evening events. The gardens also host festivals dedicated to jazz (30 April to 5 May), science (3-8 June) and music (2-13 July). Turn right out of the house and right again into the heart of Montpellier to find Suffolk Parade with its cafés, antiques and interiors shops, continuing into Great Norwood Street with Blighty Antiques at number 11 (01242 691542; blightyantiques.com).
Food and Drink
Welcome goodies are provided from local producers: a hamper of brie, Stilton, Gloucester and fresh bread from The Cheese Works; prosecco in the fridge; chocolate truffles from Benjamin Chocolatier; and Hope and Greenwood sweets. The owners can also arrange for 2007 Masterchef finalist Ben Axford to come to cook at the house (from £65 per head). To stock up on provisions, Cheltenham is home to England’s only Whole Foods Market outside London (0800 9757870; wholefoodsmarket.com) although you’ll find more interesting options, such as the Great Norwood Street Delicatessen (01242 260425).
With so much on your doorstep, it’s hard not to be tempted to eat out. A short walk north, the Tavern Cheltenham (01242 221212; thetaverncheltenham.com) is a gastropub serving anything from gourmet spam fritters (£3) to a 20oz Tbone for two (£50). Even closer is the Montpellier Wine Bar (01242 527774; montpellierwinebar.co.uk) where you can get stuck into the extensive wine list with cheeseboards and French fare.
Montpellier House, 33 Montpellier Terrace, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1UX (01242 572716; stayinmontpellier.co.uk). Nightly rental from £375, two-night minimum. Sleeps nine.